When homeschooling a struggling learner, communication can be difficult, to say the least. Without healthy communication, it will be impossible to help your child, let alone teach them effectively so that they make real progress.
As a parent to an Asperger son who struggles in several areas, I have been blessed with a child who communicates effectively. I have learned a lot from him and our journey these last 11 years as a homeschooling family that has been characterized by a close relationship. I learned this from a great resource I frequently use, AspergerExperts.com. The founder, who is a young man with Aspergers, teaches about what he calls defense mode and how to get your child out of it.
So what makes the difference? Let me share these five key communication strategies to help you with YOUR struggling learner.
1) Intentionally enter their world.
I must have instinctively known this because it’s something I’ve always done. I take note of my son’s interests, and I come alongside him to learn and listen.
Whether that was building legos with him or playing cars when he was young or even attempting to play a video game, I make it a point to spend time doing what he loves. This builds trust.
Trust is a foundation of communication, which leads me to the second point:
2) Spend time with your struggling learner APART from school.
Years ago I learned that my son VALUES spending time with me. To him, going out to lunch or coffee together satisfies him the most. So I’ve made a point of going out once a week with him for coffee or lunch. Sometimes we take school with us and do school after our food comes. Other times, we just talk.
Regardless, taking this time together on a regular basis sends the message to him that I value his company and this has helped our schooling tremendously.
3) Actively listen.
It’s so easy as a parent to get defensive and feel like you’ve failed. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I take the time to LISTEN to my son and what he has to say, I can truly understand what’s going on with him.
Case in point: several months ago I had him evaluated at LearningRx, and we found out he struggles with visual processing. Several weeks after we were working on school he told me: he CANNOT visualize and that made him upset. I didn’t realize, and so for all those years, I was mistakenly approaching school. I had been using a lot of visual resources rather than audio ones. I had completely missed it!
But because I actively listened to what my son was saying, I finally understood, and now we’re using more audio resources.
4) Treat your child with respect.
Respect goes both ways. Of course as parents we deserve respect, but children need and deserve our respect. What does this mean practically?
It means little things like give your struggling learner advance warning. For instance, rather than demanding my son stop everything he is doing right now instantly, I give him at least a fifteen-minute warning. Or I will give him choices. Like, “Hey, would you like to do school at 10 or 10:30?”
And always always have empathy. I learned this most from Love and Logic. LEAD with empathy and mean it, especially if your son or daughter has made a wrong decision or they are struggling in a minor way. Because you never, never want to minimize their feelings or tell them they are not feeling a certain way. That will lead to them shutting down and not trusting you. Feelings are feelings and perceptions are reality.
So just saying a simple “I’m sad for you” when your child is struggling can go a long way!
5) Be consistent.
Now I confess I have a hard time with this, but it’s so important. When your child is having a hard time or being defiant, making empty threats is only going to make your situation worse. You’re training your child to ignore you until that moment when your tone gets serious, and they know they have to obey.
Communicating up front your expectations, and the consequences if these expectations are not met, is so important. And then follow through! And don’t threaten something that’s not realistic or will hurt you in the long run!
Communication is so important when teaching a struggling learner. In fact, communication is essential in EVERY aspect of life. These keys will not only help you with your child but will assist in all areas of your life!
Do you need more help with your struggling learner? Check out our special need courses, tutoring, and advising at True North Homeschool Academy.
Dana Susan Beasley, a graphic artist, writer, and musician, is principal/publisher/program director of AngelArts. Dedicated to providing excellently-designed ebooks, books, homeschooling curriculum, cards, stationery, gifts, and art services to homeschooling families, inspirational artists, entrepreneurs, and art enthusiasts, Dana delights in sharing her gifts and talents and the talents of others with people who are passionate about spiritual, personal, educational, professional, ministrial, artistic, and relational growth.
Married to Travis Beasley, Dana is a homeschooling mother to her Asperger son, Sam. She helped her husband start his architectural business, Essential Pillar Architecture, and assists him with marketing and administration.